Electronic Govt Procurement system good for Zambia’s public resources accountability
Published On May 22, 2024 » 110 Views» By Times Reporter » Business
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By KETRA KALUNGA

Zambia has achieved significant modernization in its public procurement system, particularly in its legal and institutional frameworks, says the World Bank.

According to the 2019 analysis based on the Methodology for Assessing Procurement Systems (MAPS) conducted by the World Bank, Zambia has great future potential to transform its procurement system into a powerful force for change and improve overall use and accountability of public resources.

The World Bank says in the report that  the country’s procurement system could benefit from further transparency and inclusiveness,  prevention and enforcement through the use of an e-government system.

The report further states that the digital procurement system will enable the Government to save significant time and resources, reduce corruption with improving transparency.

It indicates that an open procurement system will drive competition and promote better value-for-money and higher quality goods and services.

Zambia in 2016, implemented the Electronic Government Procurement (e-GP) system through the Zambia Public Procurement System (ZPPA)  to ensure efficiency and transparency in the procurement of goods and services.

The digital platform offers a secure, interactive, dynamic environment for procurements of any nature, complexity or value. 

It facilitates the full lifecycle of a tendering process for both buyers and suppliers.

The system according to ZPPA leverages information and communications technology (ICT), especially the internet, for government agencies and other stakeholders involved in procurement process.

Acting ZPPA Director General Justin Matimuna says the authority has made progress since the system was rolled out and has continued to register suppliers of goods, works and services on the digital platform.

Mr Matimuna says this is being done in line with the Public Procurement Act  that mandates the Authority to oversee procurement activities.

He further says the Act mandates all procuring entities to use the e-GP system for their procurement activities.

Mr Matimuna says to date, about 73 406 suppliers have been registered on the system.

He says the authority has also trained about 105 procuring entities in full usage of the e-GP system in the first quarter of 2024.

“This brings the total number of procuring entities trained to 635 since the system was rolled out in 2016,” he says.

Mr Matimuna says the system in it’s initial stages presented the challenge of access to communication infrastructure such as internet in the remote parts of the country which has since has been resolved.

He explains that ZPPA worked hand in hand with other Government sectors like Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) to improve communication infrastructure countrywide.

Smart Zambia ensures that the e-governance is available to improved access to internet even in remote areas.

Mr Matimuna says bidders are able to access the e-GP system because most of the communication towers have been installed across the country.

“Internet is readily available in remote areas such as Mufumbwe and the district is doing very well in terms of bidders participating on the platform,” he says.

Mr Matimuna says the other challenge that is observed on the use of e-GP platform was the system outage and longer loading period.

He  says this too has been resolved through increased load management point and speed process. 

Mr Matimuna says these enhancements are continuous and ZPPA is working hard to enhance the effectiveness of the system which is continuously being improved.

Stakeholders are optimistic that the system will enhance access to information, efficiency and promote transparency.

Indigenous Zambia Contractors Association (IZCA) president Humphrey Musonda says the initiative is good but that it is work in progress because the country is not fully digitalized.

Mr Musonda says the tools to use in the bidding process such as computers and other gadgets are not readily available to contractors and suppliers especially those in rural areas 

He says about 30 per cent of the contractors and suppliers don’t have access to the facilities and about 70 per cent depended on the third parties to bid using the e-GP system.

“In rural areas especially, contractor and supplies have minimum access to computer and other gadgets that  enhance efficiency  and transparency,” he says. 

Mine Suppliers and Contractors Association of Zambia (MSCAZ) president Costa Mwaba says system is welcome as it will address the issue of human capital interference.
Mr Mwaba says the system will also bring about competitiveness because it will get rid of favouritism in the procurement process.
“Turn around will also improve, for instance when a tender is placed, within a certain period,  parameters that are considered will be validated and contracts will be awarded almost in the immediate,” he says.

It is hoped that the system will enhance access to information, efficiency and accountability of public resources in the procurement process. 

This will ultimately enable the Government to save significant time and resources as well as reduce corruption with improving transparency.

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